Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rejection Teaches us to Spot a Phony Smile

Can you spot a phony smile? If so, you may be feeling rejected.

Last year Psychological Science published a study (October 2008), showing that social rejection improves one’s ability to recognize a phony smile.

Psychologist Michael J. Bernstein and his colleagues from Miami University set out to see how well rejected individuals could identify a phony smile. The researchers asked a group to think about a time they felt isolated socially. Another group was asked to think about a time when they were included in social activities, and felt accepted. As a control, a third group was asked to merely think about what they did the previous morning.

The group of psychologists then showed movies to the study participants. Some movies contained people smiling genuinely, while others displayed fake smiles. The results showed that socially rejected people were better able to spot a phony smile.

The researchers concluded that rejected people are more motivated to sniff out disingenuous behaviors, like a phony smile. Conversely, detecting genuine smiles might mean a chance for acceptance.

“It seems essential to detect legitimate signs of positivity that indicate possible reaffiliation with other people. Otherwise, rejected individuals could miss out on new chances for acceptance or 'waste' affiliation efforts on people who are not receptive."

Feelings of social acceptance lead to better overall physical and mental health. Avoiding people with phony smiles should simply make us all feel better.

Can you spot a phony smile?